Dubai: Dubai-based Lovraj Talwar is a proud man. And he has every reason to be.
As he looks out of the boardroom of his plush office on the 47th floor of the Vision Tower in Business Bay, he says, “There’s not a single building out there that does not have one of our products, whether it’s the tiles, stone and steel or the glass reinforced concrete, roto-moulded tanks or plastic.”
As managing director of Terrazzo Ltd, Emirates Rebar and Trade House, the Indian expat businessman’s sweeping claim is no empty boast. Nor is it a “nothing-to-everything” story.
From a family of plenty
Coming from a “family of plenty” in Mumbai, Lovraj Talwar, son of the late Indian industrialist Pran Nath Talwar, feels privileged to be part of a generations-old business. “Currently, our family business in India - Nitco Group - is a listed company at the Bombay Stock Exchange. In the mid-70’s, we decided to establish a JV in the UAE with an Emirati group to make flooring tiles and have grown into various manufacturing, trading businesses directly related to the construction industry,” he explains.
Though born with the proverbial silver spoon, Talwar feels success must necessarily be earned. “There is no short cut to hard work and attention to detail is of utmost importance.”
A product of the prestigious Mayo College in Ajmer and the Sydenham College in Mumbai, Talwar says his father refused to send him to the West for higher education. “I was very keen to proceed for further studies in the US, but dad felt there was no better training ground than being under him.”
Talwar faced the same resistance when he decided to venture into the UAE. But this time, he got the better of his father. “I convinced him to let me proceed. He came down for a day to check things out for himself. Initially, I also shuttled up and down as he wanted me to stay in Mumbai. Fortunately, the Abu Dhabi International Airport project was awarded to us at the very beginning of our business here. It was a prestigious project and it made dad very happy. So eventually, I started living full time in Dubai in 1980.”
The early years in the UAE were great, recalls Talwar. “Even in those days, Dubai was a very comfortable and secure city and we enjoyed staying here, though facilities were minimal and basic. I had left the comfort of our home and business in India and decided to take up the challenge by relocating to the UAE. But there were no regrets.”
Redefining expat life
Used to a life of luxury, Talwar refused to settle for anything less in the UAE. Long before freehold became the buzzword in Dubai, Talwar built himself a spacious home in Jumeirah. “Soon after we moved here and established our business, we decided not to live like the typical expats. We wanted to build our own house as we would do in our own country.”
Redefining expat life as it were in the early days, Talwar and his wife developed a huge social circle as they threw lavish parties, complete with five-star catering, for Diwali and other occasions at their home.
“Yes, social life here is an important part of our existence. We can claim credit for a lot of the “firsts” on the social front,” says Talwar, whose friends call him a “social animal”.
“Dubai’s cosmopolitan nature provides a great platform for mixing all cultures and meeting people from different parts of the world with ease and comfort,” he adds.
The rapid development of the UAE, under its able leaders, is something Talwar personally cherishes. “It’s been very enjoyable to see Dubai and the UAE being built in front of our eyes like history being written in front of us. It was a personal challenge for me to settle down here, and my father kept insisting that I should relocate back to India and use my international experience for the growth of our business there, but my wife Dolly, three children (Priyanka, Diya and Yuvraj) and I became so used to living here that we did not want to go back. Finally, Dad gave in and he would say, ‘You are too spoilt now and will not be of much use in India’.”
On the first Emirates flight
Ask Talwar about his most treasured times in the UAE, and pat comes the reply: “I was fortunate enough to travel on the inaugural flight of Emirates airline along with my wife. Nobody could have imagined that from the old PIA-leased plane, Emirates would be what it is today. Emirates has now become a symbol of comfort and security no matter which part of the world we are in. The moment we reach Emirates lounge at any airport we feel so relaxed, just the way one would feel that one reaches home.”
He also makes a special mention of the yesteryear cricket matches in Sharjah. “A very important part of our life was enjoying the cricket matches at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium where we had a box for almost 20 years. We used to love watching and interacting with the players,” he says.
An avid art collector, Talwar talks of some his prized paintings as they bring back fond memories. “My wife and I have been avid art collectors for the last 30 years. We are mainly into Indian art. Most of the works acquired by us are through auction houses.”
An art collector’s favourites
Zeroing in on one of his favourites, M.F. Hussain’s Three Graces, an acrylic on canvas he acquired from Christies New York in May 2005, Talwar recounts how the great Indian artist once visited his house, lending more credence to his masterpieces.
“Many of the famous artists are copied. That’s why we make it a point to buy art through established auction houses that are responsible for the authenticity of the works they sell,” he says, adding how M.F. Hussain himself posing against his works at their home made for the most embellished statement.
Talwar also shares two of his other favourites with delightful anecdotes to go with them: Akbar Padamsee’s Head, an oil on canvas that he bought through Sotheby’s London in July 2005 and some of Gino Hollander’s paintings.
“While bidding for Head at Sotheby’s, there was an error on my part with respect to the currency. The bid was in pounds, but in my excitement, I was thinking dollars. It was quite a joke,” he lets on.
Similarly, he says he had long been trying to get in touch with Gino Hollander, the American / Spanish painter but in vain. Then one evening, a journalist who was at his house happened to take a picture of the Hollander collection and write about it. “The editor apparently sent the write-up to Hollander who as a gesture of goodwill gifted him with an original art work. And here I had been trying to contact him for years, but he was unreachable.”
A pilgrim's progress
Talwar is also a nature enthusiast. In fact, he spends much of his free time with his family at the Talwar Ranch, close to Dubai.
“The ranch is home to many animals including gazelles, monkeys, emus and even birds. It’s a great place to spend in the lap of nature.”
A deeply religious person, Talwar says, “Outside of my work, I spend a lot of time in prayer. I also regularly visit places of worship back home.”
Clearly, with prayer and hard work, Talwar’s success is quite the pilgrim’s progress.